Shopian: With the onset of spring, cotton-fiber produced by Russian poplars cause multiple allergies such as nose, chest infections, eye allergies and skin rashes. But a senior scientist from the Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKAUST), Dr Parvaiz Ahmad Sofi holds government’s poor awareness and mismanagement responsible for the health problems the tree generates.
The scientist from the varsity’s faculty of forestry also denied Russain poplar is a Russian breed but an American.
“It is actually an American breed, which is famous as the eastern cotton wood grown in the eastern part of America,” Sofi said.
Sofi said the high court ban on the poplars was imposed without expert consultation. “If the high court had consulted us, we would not have let them pass such an order,” he said.
In June 2015, the court passed an order to fell all females of this particular poplar species. Rampant chopping and a divisional administration ban on its further plantation followed. The ban affected people who earn their livelihood from the trade and plantation of this poplar tree. More than 1.5 crore of these poplars are grown in the Valley. After 12 to 15 years, the tree goes into its reproductive phase and hence it then produces a cottony wilt. Only female trees cause these seeds,” Sofi added.
“After the judgment of the high court, we were forced to change our research programme. The faculty of forests at SKUAST had identified the male clones of this American breed poplar trees which have a faster growth than the female ones,” he said.
“In March this year, during a Kissan Mela, we put forward some of these male poplar trees for the farmers. Now it is the duty of the government to produce these clones. Our work was to research, test and produce and multiply them,” he said.
He said Haryana and Punjab have about 8 crore such trees but there is no infection hazard. “They have proper industries of plywood and paper and they axe these trees before they go into reproductive age. But we don’t have any such kind of proper management or industrial setup in the Valley,” Sofi said.
He said that Kashmiris nurse poplar trees for 30 to 40 years. “There is no good market for poplar wood. This is the reason for menacing dimensions that is why we are facing such kind of the cottonwood problem,” he said.